COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Travelers to the United States
President Biden’s Presidential Proclamation 10294 rescinds the geographic COVID-19 travel bans as of November 8, 2021. In place of the travel bans, international air travelers to the United States will be required to meet COVID-19 vaccination requirements
The Proclamation suspends the entry into the United States via air travel of noncitizen, nonimmigrants who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with certain exceptions. Travelers will be required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of that vaccination before boarding a plane to the United States.
The CDC has confirmed that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or on the World Health Organization emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines will be accepted. Currently acceptable vaccines include:
- Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (Single Dose)
Individuals will be considered fully vaccinated after two weeks of receipt of the last dose of a vaccine, the first dose of an approved single-dose vaccine, or any combination of two doses of an approved vaccine (mix and match).
Exceptions to Vaccine Requirement
The Proclamation does not apply to United States citizens, lawful permanent residents, or those traveling on immigrant visas (ie green cards issued outside the United States). Additional exceptions to the vaccine requirement include:
- Children: Children under the age of 18.
- Clinical Trials: Those who have participated or are participating in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, as determined by the CDC Director.
- Contraindications: Those for whom approved COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated. A letter must be provided to the airline from a licensed physician documenting the contraindication before boarding. The letter should be signed and dated with official contact from the provider, clearly state the contraindication, and have identifiable personal information. Letters not in English may require translation.
- Humanitarian and Emergency Exceptions: Those granted humanitarian or emergency exceptions by the Director of the CDC in limited circumstances for individuals who need to travel to the U.S. for their health and safety and are unable to complete the vaccine requirement before doing so.
- Limited Vaccine Availability: Citizens of a country with less than 10% of the population vaccinated with any available COVID-19 vaccine, who seek to enter the United States pursuant to a nonimmigrant visa, except for a B-1/B-2 visa. This exception does not apply to an individual residing in a covered country but who is not a citizen of that country. A passport/proof of citizenship AND a valid nonimmigrant visa that is not a B-1/B-2 visa will need to be shown. The list of countries with limited vaccine availability is at https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/order-safe-travel/technical-instructions.html
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their Spouses and Children: These individuals will need to show a U.S. military identification document, such as a military ID, Common Access Card, DEERS ID card, or other proof that the individual is a member or spouse/child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- National Interest Exceptions: Those whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretaries of State, Transportation, Homeland Security or their designees. These individuals will need to show an official U.S. government letter documenting approval of the exception. It is unclear if the current process for obtaining an NIE will continue. Also, it appears that previously issued NIEs will no longer be valid for purposes of the vaccination requirements.
- Diplomats or Persons on Official Government Travel: Individuals seeking entry pursuant to the following visa classifications: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO classifications). These individuals will need to travel with an official letter, such as a letter from the U.S. government or foreign government.
- United Nations Travel: Individuals whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the UN Headquarters Agreement or who is traveling pursuant to United States legal obligation. If they have been invited to the United Nations, they will need a letter documenting the purpose for their travel.
- Sea Crew Members: Individuals seeking entry as sea crew members traveling pursuant to C-1 and D visas, provided the crew member adheres to industry standards for the prevention of COVID-19. They must provide an official letter (paper or digital) from their employer indicating that their entry to the United States is required for the purpose of operating a vessel that will depart from a U.S. seaport.
- Airline Crew Members: Individuals seeking entry to the United States as a crew member on official duty assigned by the airline or aircraft operator that involves operation of aircraft, or the positioning of crew not operating the aircraft.
There are no exceptions to the vaccine requirement for religious reasons or other moral convictions. There are also no specific exceptions for individuals who have received a vaccine authorized by their country, that has not yet been approved or authorized by the FDA and WHO, except for diplomats.
Vaccination Requirements After Arrival
While the categories of persons above are excepted from the vaccination requirement, these individuals will be subject to more rigorous testing requirements (as discussed below), as well as a requirement that they be vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States. The Proclamation provides limited exceptions for the 60-day vaccination requirement:
- Those whose intended stay is sufficiently brief.
- Children whose vaccination would be inappropriate given their age.
- Those who have participated or are participating in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, as determined by the CDC Director.
- Those for whom approved COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated.
- Those entering via the nonimmigrant visa categories for diplomats listed above, provided they have previously received a COVID-19 vaccine authorized or approved by their country of nationality.
- It is determined that the COVID-19 vaccine is not warranted for the individual in question.
Testing Requirements for Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Adults and Children
Per guidance issued after the issuance of the Proclamation, the United States is also amending testing requirements for all persons entering the country, whether the Proclamation covers them or not.
All vaccinated individuals, including American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling to the United States on immigrant or nonimmigrant visas, will be required to produce a negative viral test (NAAT or PCR) result within three calendar days of travel to the United States, or before boarding the first flight in a series of connection to the United States. Unvaccinated travelers, whether U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or those who qualify for an exception under the Proclamation, will be required to show documentation of a negative test taken within one day of travel to the United States. Children between the ages of 2 and 17 will be required to take a pre-departure test. If the child is not fully vaccinated but traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, they can show proof of a negative viral test taken within three calendar days before departure, much like vaccinated adults. If they are traveling alone, they will be subject to the same testing requirements as unvaccinated adults.
Requirements for Land and Ferry Border Crossing
Also, effective November 8, 2021, non-citizen travelers who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and can provide documentary proof will be allowed to enter the United States for both essential and non-essential (tourism) travel via land ports of entry and ferry terminals. Non-citizen travelers should be prepared to provide:
- Proof of COVID-19 vaccination (see CDC website); and
- Verbally attest to their reason for travel and COVID-19 vaccination status during a border inspection.
Starting in January 2022, DHS will require all inbound foreign national travelers seeking to enter the United States to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of the vaccination, regardless of the reason for their travel. It is unclear what exceptions will be made available once this new requirement is in place.
Essential travel continues to be allowed for unvaccinated individuals and includes, but is not limited to:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
- Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Individuals traveling to conduct essential work in the United States;
- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes;
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade;
- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel; and
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their children and/or spouses returning to the United States and individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.
The proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by the president. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will, after no more than 60 days, and the final day of each calendar month after, recommend whether the Proclamation should be continued, modified, or terminated.